Founded on the following premises in 2016, LUCK first provides marginalized youth access to equestrian sports as a mitigation for trauma. Second, LUCK provides social capital by providing opportunities for participants to meet and forge relationships with influential people in the city. In fact, LUCK participants have been hired by trainers, apprenticed in trades in the equestrian industry, explored interests in becoming mounted police, been trained to handle horses on the ground, and shown successfully in A-rated horse shows. Third, LUCK engages participants and authority figures to interact using horses as a bridge to communication. We have touched Cleveland youth over 450 times despite not having a facility.
LUCK participants are self-selected, referred by educators or parents, or by social service agencies. They develop a long-term relationship with the organization and therefore create lasting relationships. LUCK has a proven track record of success using urban-based equine programming to positively contribute to the development of able-bodied individuals. The social and emotional benefits of working with horses is undisputed and has been scientifically benchmarked.
Results from data collected from LUCK participants over the last six years indicate that working with horses, even for a short time, increases participant confidence and perseverance—traits that researchers such as Angela Duckworth report are better predictors of success in college and beyond than IQ or SAT scores. Likewise, confidence-building programs have been shown to have a direct impact on crime reduction. Studies (Stewart, 1985; Scholte, van Aken, & van Leishout, 1997) indicate that mental fatigue caused in children by uncertainty or the unknown and exhibited as irritability, inattentiveness, and reduced impulse control are linked to low confidence which leads to aggression and violence. A considerable body of research indicates that contact with nature in a variety of forms—wilderness areas, prairie, community parks, animals–is systematically linked with enhanced cognitive functioning as measured by both self-report and performance on objective tests (e.g., Canin, 1991; Cimprich, 1993; Hartig, Mang, & Evans, 1991; R. Kaplan, 1984; Lohr, Pearson-Mimms, & Goodwin, 1996; Miles, Sullivan, & Kuo, 1998; Ovitt, 1996; Tennessen & Cimprich, 1995). To the extent that irritability, inattentiveness, and impulsivity are symptoms of mental fatigue, as first proposed in S. Kaplan (1987) and recently elucidated in Kuo and Sullivan (in press), reductions in mental fatigue should decrease violent behavior.